Stories of India’s ‘wealthy’ past where it outranked several wealthy western nations are common subjects of WhatsApp messages and social media posts that wish to paint a glorious past for the country.
Fitting into that narrative, a social media post, claiming that Indian Rupee was leagues ahead of the US dollar during British rule, is being widely shared on social media.
Images with text in hindi claiming that Indian Rupee was equal to $13 USD are rife on social media. Several users on Facebook shared the image, which loosely translates “In 1917 India’s 1 Rupee equalled 13 Dollars. During independence 1 Dollar was equal to 1 Rupee. After that, the country witnessed such ministers and governments whose wrong policies resulted in 1 dollar becoming equal to 74 Rupess, a currency which used to be below us.”
It further adds “The mistake for this is not of Ministers but of voters who vote on the basis of caste and religion and not based on their competence-Wake up Youth Wake up”
Some users are also sharing text statuses on the platform sharing the same claim.
On searching keywords hindi keywords “1 रुपया 13 USD” on Twitter we also found tweets as old as 2013 and 2019.
Screenshot Facebook posts from 2015, 2017 and 2021
In order to verify the exchange value of the Rupee against Dollar in 1917 as claimed by the posts, we searched the keywords “currency exchange in british india” on google.
The search results directed us to the Reserve Bank of India’s document on “Currency, Exchange and Banking Prior to 1935” on their website.
“The regulation of note issue, the management of foreign exchange and the custody of the nation’s metallic and foreign exchange reserves were the responsibilities of the Government of India.” read the document’s introductory paragraph.
India during the years around 1917 had silver coins as legal currency. During the era of the first world war—which lasted from 1914 to 1918—the demand for precious metals like silver shot up tremendously.
This increase in demand led to the price of the precious metal to reach the exchange value of 1 S.d in August 1917, as per the RBI report (Report page 12).
In the abbreviation ‘S.d’, ‘S’ stands for ‘shillings’ and ‘d’ stands for ‘pennies’, which were the smaller denominations in which 1 Pound was divided back then.
Subsequent increases in the currency’s value led to 1 Rupee reaching 1 S 4d, which would equal approximately 0.066 Pounds.
Converting 0.06 Pounds to Dollars as per exchange rate of 1917 it equals $0.314, which means 1 Rupee back then was equivalent to $0.314. This value is not anywhere close to the claimed $13 by the viral social media posts.
Thus, the exchange rate in 1917 of Rupee to Dollar was not 1 Rupee= 13 Dollars as claimed by the viral claim.
Current Exchange Value
As per Money Control’s website the exchange rate for today for Rupee per Dollar is Rupees 74.5050.
The viral claims that the Rupee was equal to 13 Dollars in 1917 as against its value now of Rupees 74 per dollar hence making it stronger back then is not true. The value of 1 Rupee back in 1917 was 0.314 Dollars.
Rating: Misleading Content/ Partly False
RBI report on currency prior 1935- https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/content/PDFs/89635.pdf
Understanding the currency of Britsh Raj- http://projectbritain.com/moneyold.htm
Exchange rate of 1917- https://www.measuringworth.com/datasets/exchangepound/result.php
Money Control current exchange value of Rupee- https://www.moneycontrol.com/currency/bse-usdinr-price.html?classic=true
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